DIY USB DMX Interface for under $10

The DMX protocol is the same as the RS485 protocol, so we can use any RS485 USB converter to control DMX devices. DMX controllers are usually not that cheap, using this guide, you save money for possibly a hardware midi controller for your lighting software.

Required Parts

Click HERE to view a second similar DMX Interface guide using an Ethernet cable that does work out of the box.

If you are not good at soldering (because you will need a fix to make the device send DMX) you could always buy the cheapest controller i found: Dealextreme

Before connecting to your computer, make sure to install all latest updates (old windows driver may brick your device), also only use the Windows driver as the official ftdi driver bricks your device.

Basically, all the RS485 converters based on an FTDI FT232 Chip will work. I used following device:

rs485dmxadapter

Ebay or Dealextreme

Now you will need the connection to XLR:

femalexlrdmxmountableconnector

Musicstore.de #1 or Musicstore.de #2 or Musicstore.de #3

You will also need an enclosure, be creative or buy a small hobby/universal enclosure somewhere, I bought:
“Waterproof ABS Plastic Enclosure” and used my glue gun to keep the board in place.

Installation / Wiring

RS4855pinterminal RS4853pinterminal

The RS485 converter has (at least) 3 connectors:
A or Tx+ or +Data or +ve
B or Tx- or -Data or -ve
GND or GROUND or 0V
(optional) 5V or VCC
(optional) Rx-
(optional) Rx+

We only need the first 3 connections which are the basic connections for sending RS485(DMX) signal.

XLRConnectors

the connections of the XLR/DMX plug are:
1: Ground/GND
2: Data-
3: Data+

Now it’s simple, just connect the corresponding ground and data outputs and your DMX Dongle is ready:

  • Connect GND of your RS485 to pin #1 of your XLR
  • Data-/TX- of your RS485 goes to pin #2 of you XLR
  • Data+/TX+ of your RS485 goes to pin #3 of your XLR

RS485toXLR

Try to keep these wires as short as possible, long wires may add extra interference… if experiencing problems, try twisting the data+ and data- wires.

Not all devices seem to work out of the box, below is a Fix for those devices that are not sending DMX:

Fix - Change FTDI Pinout settings

+Fix driver issues: Guide

+Try terminating your DMX chain, this may solve your problems.

There are 2(3) fixes:

FT_PROG FIX YOUR FTDI RS485 DMX INTERFACE

The second guide requires soldering and should only be tried if the first option did not fix your board:

DMX RS485 WRONG BOARD FIX

Please leave a comment on the fix you tried. It would be a great help for anyone having problems with this board.

NEW UNTESTED FIX, Please try & report.

I recently got a reply from “Pepe” suggesting a new fix that may mostly fix unstable DMX adapters.

mWp6VDh

Post:

Hi Steven I bought this one and is working…. http://www.ebay.com/itm/200969195861?_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

and i see a curios thing there is two shorded pins (as i remember i try to short some pins to get continuos work. maybe that was that case that was working for me)
and i ataching a diagram ( be careful of that hole a lot of time is leters in other orientacion then on diagram ( you can test it by shorting reset and vcc) so maybe this is a another fix( for those wich get it work for few minutes and then it fail) http://prntscr.com/7yvfmb

Ps a AGDD+test pin are conected to maing ground ( GDN + PWR Led (a GDN side)

Hopefuly this will help”

 

Video Tutorial by Absolete Frosty

I would like to Thank “Absolete Frosty” for making a very detailed English video tutorial for this guide.

Part #1 – Hardware:

Part #2 – Software:

Absolete Frosty’s Youtube Channel 

Compatible Software

Windows : The best free software available(for windows) is Freestyler DMX, download and install  HERE.

Freestyler DMX Loadscreen

Now in settings choose the interface “Enttec open DMX“.. this device is based on a RS485 and works with any RS485 device.

freestylerdmxsettings

Now click save, add your fixtures and start programming your show.

Other Software : 

Mac : QLC+, Download Here. Personally, i find this the easiest,best program there is for free.

***Other compatible software :
DMXControl
Martin M-Series Software + (Fixture Library)
(Mac Appstore)JV Lightning DmxControl free and pro

F.A.Q
Before reading these F.A.Q, read the official F.A.Q on entec’s site: http://www.enttec.com/support-center/kb/article/44

DMX Signal randomly stops:
– Try plugging your DMX Adapter in a POWERED! hub (with external power supply) this may fix random stops.

What software can i use? :
http://www.enttec.com/?main_menu=Products&pn=70303

Drivers? :
The FTPI chip should work without manual driver installation, if the default windows drivers aren’t working for you you can try downloading & installing these drivers:
http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/D2XX.htm

Normal LED behavior :
Plugged in, not sending : Red Led
Pugged in & Sending : Red Led ON & Green LED Flashing

Small,quick and easy test software?:
kmtronic.com DMX Tester

QLC+ won’t work:
The mavericks update broke DMX output on mac’s, you need to replace your FTDI driver with an older version.
http://www.enttec.com/support-center/kb/article/108

Other problems try these:
– Try on different computers & always try the windows driver first.
– (laptop) Try unplugging the power adapter & try again
– When trying, only use 1 DMX light, if this works try adding more lights to the chain.
– more solutions in comments below.

Board : rs485board

Sending DMX :
dmxrs485

Comfirmed not working RS485 adapters :
Pro 5ft. USB to RS485-RS422 Converter with FTDI Chip
Prolific USB to serial adapter (uses pl2303)
Any MAX485 Adapter : (image provided by marmil)
Bh7TZhI

Reader creations

Photo’s of your creation can be mailed to : admin@stevenbreuls.com, these images will be added to this post to help other users create their device.

 

Discussions on this post continue in this Forum

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Anonymous
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Anonymous

I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

lageoi have a small project thats ruinnng 5 RBG strips and several white LED strips. i’ve been using the Dmx master shield to drive my dimmer board. It seemed to be working fine for a day and a half and then the other morning i went to turn it on, the power indicator lit up, but its not sending dmx to the dimmer. not knowing what else to do, i pluged a new one in, it worked great, problem solved, 10 minuets latter it also stopped sending. i’m totaly perplexed. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hans Verstraelen
Guest
Hans Verstraelen

You will probably have two RS485 drivers active at the same time. In general only the USB-RS485 converter should be driving the DMX signal, all other DMX products should only have their receiver enabled, and their RS485 driver disabled. In most cases this is a hardware input to the RS485 chip, and when left unconnected (open) the behaviour of the chip cannot be predicted. Check the datasheet of the RS485 chip and make sure that the driver is disabled.

Tomas
Guest
Tomas

I just try to make that, because I have some usb-485 FT232RL converters, but FreeStyler returns a problem to make it works and I don’t know how to use DMX Control (I don’t speak german).
I want to try this “USB-DMX” conversor to control a wall washer that have an DMX input, do you know how I can do it?
Thanks,

Lars
Guest
Lars

My RS485 – USB from the first (eBay) link you posted is ordered about 2 weeks ago. I think I get it in 2 weeks.
I’ll let you know if it work! Thanks for this very usefull post.

Lars
Guest
Lars

Yesterday I received my RS485 – USB thing (first eBay link). I already had a XLR connector for building the complete into a box. I connected the xlr to the rs485 -usb, and plugged it into my PC. There was shining 1 light from the usb thing. I started up Freestyler and I choose Enttec Open DMX. Huh, it says there wasn’t a adapter plugged in. I plugged a dmx cable in the adapter and putted the dmx cable into a mushroom. It was on te right channel. After I had done that a second light goes on. But still… Read more »

Matthias Hinrichs
Guest

Great effort. Maybe somebody could try our M-PC software with this device as well. M-PC is free for one Universe.

http://www.martin.com/controllersupport/

Matthias
Product Manager, Martin Professional

galeere2
Guest

Awesome to see Martin on this blog.
I will try your software as soon as my board arrives

John Desjardins
Guest
John Desjardins

I want to use Q light Control. It’s free open source. I assume your device will work. For $10 or so it’ll be fun trying.Just thought I’d ask.

John Desjardins
Guest
John Desjardins

OOPS! I see it’s one of the recommended apps. Cool. I have the part on order.Thanks

Jamie Jessup
Guest

Great Resource! Thanks for sharing.

Do you remember where you bought your enclosure from?

It looks really nice and looks like a perfect size

John
Guest
John

I ordered all the parts today not sure if its going to work out or not . Can somebody tell me they have tried it and it is working fine . Thanks

Nuno
Guest
Nuno

Hi, first thanks for this tutorial… it’s great.
Second, i’ve bought and done all things like you say, but i cannot put my led can doing anything.

I’ve checked all inside software QLC Plus and with correct addresses and all. QLC+ connects correctly to RS485 without any error. But the led can does not light 🙁
Questions:
1- I’m not using a XLR terminator, can this be the cause? (i already bought on and is comming)
2- Is somehow needed to have more power in USB? I don’t think so, because RS485 connects ok, but… don’t know.

Alex
Guest
Alex

What type of wire is being used to connect the DMX Plug to the RS485? please advise 🙂

Nuno
Guest
Nuno

The wires are not really fat. They are thin. I’ve just extracted them from a old power switch i had from an old PC. hmmm, if that could be the problem i will get other wires. Does You know thin wires can give problems?

Ope
Guest
Ope

I bought a ftdi friend from MCM Electronics. Connections are RTS, RX, TX, VCC, CTS, GND. I have looked all over the net and cannot figure out which connections correspond to your design. Any help would be great. Thanks

john
Guest
john

okay so I ordered every thing and the computer and program recognized the device , but I do not know how t use the program FreeStyler. I would appreciate a lot of help Thanks

John Desjardins
Guest
John Desjardins

I didn’t care for Freestyler. I use QLC+
I find it more intuitive.

Mark
Guest
Mark

We got some problems with FTDI FT232 Chip. The lights on the chip all work and blink when we use the chip, and freestyler also sends out the correct output (or at least some output), but none of the lights we used reacted to the DMX signal. We used two Ibiza Light lmh 300’s and an Eurolite kls 401. Both light are compitable with DMX512. We have actually used both before with a dmx controller and both worked. First time we tried with stranded wires, now we changed the wires and build a case for it, but still no result.… Read more »

Evzen
Guest
Evzen

Still no luck making it work 🙁 How exactly are the adapter LEDs supposed to behave? When I connect the adapter to USB, a red “PW” LED lights up – that’s correct, I suppose. When I start FreeStyler or e.g. the KMTronic test software ) a blue “RX” LED starts flashing rapidly – is this correct or not? Now, whatever I try to do with the DMX channels (e.g. moving the sliders in the KMTronic test), the attached fixture does not do anything, the blue “TX” LED flashes still the same, the “RX” LED does nothing. Is there anything I… Read more »

Zac
Guest
Zac

I am having the same exact problem Evzen. I’ve tried uninstalling software and drivers, rewiring the plug and different USB cable. Still no solution.

GermAndy
Guest
GermAndy

I had the same Problem.

I found out that the problem is the signal “DE” – pin.3 of 75176.
The rising of “DE” is too late. Because of that dmx data packet is not complete.

“DE” and “/RE” are connected to “CBUS2” – pin.13 of FT232RL;
compare with the schematic of enttec openDMX
==> “DE” and “/RE” are connected to “RTS”.

Here is my solution:
– lift off pin.2 and pin.3 of 75176 from solder pads
– connect these 2 pins to +5v pin.8 of 75176
– driver is now always enabled

Tested with QLC+ on OSX 10.7.5 :: OK.

See also:

http://www.ftdichip.com/Support/Documents/DataSheets/ICs/DS_FT232R.pdf

GermAndy
Guest
GermAndy

…. and thanks a lot to steven for these great idea!!!

Zac
Guest
Zac

It worked! Thanks for the solution, GermAndy! Don’t think I could’ve figured that one out. And thanks to Steven for this money saving trick. Works great with my 6 mac 250s!

Evzen
Guest
Evzen

It works here too!
Thanks a MILLION, GermAndy!!!

And BTW, the LEDs behavior is still the same – blue RX LED rapidly flashing all the time, green TX LED not flashing at all.
Anyway, IT WORKS! 😉

deeveejay
Member
deeveejay

I have a question. Is there anyway you can post a picture of the final modification you made to this. I think I know what you mean here but I just want to make sure that I was doing it correct. Do you run a wire to pin 8 from pin 2 and 3. or is it a jumper you change from the board itself. Thanks for the information in advance.

GermAndy
Guest
GermAndy

Sorry, there is no jumper to do this modification.
You need an soldering iron and a short wire.

Here is a picture of my modification:

Will
Guest
Will

I found exactly the same thing using QLC+ under Ubuntu 12.04 on a HP laptop. I lifted pins 2 and 3 of the RS485 transciever, shorted them together and the system started working perfectly. I did not need to tie them to +5v and therefore assumed there is an internal pullup to Vcc.

Zac
Guest
Zac

I bought mine from Aliexpress.com. It must be a little different. When sending it has a blue RX led flashing and it didn’t send a dmx signal right out of the box. The production date was 2013/06/4. Maybe this will help others in the future.

stain1107
Guest
stain1107

I tried a different approach. I bought a USB to RS232 converter then an RS232 to RS485 sadly it did not work it cost me about $10-$15

I am now waiting for the delivery from here:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-USB-To-RS485-FTDI-Interface-Board-FT232RL-Double-Function-Protection-Module-/200720518972

I hope this will work out of the box or else I am going to buy the real one Lol

Thanks for this tutorial

Zac
Guest
Zac

Just got two from Dealextreme and they both work out of the box. Thanks again for this tutorial Steven!

Jam
Guest
Jam

Hi, I bought the RS485 from ebay, connected to computer, red power led illuminates, installed Freestyler and blue led flashes rapidly. The problem I had was my RGBW Par 64 light was wired inverted, so until I swapped the D+ and D- the LED light did not work. Next problem is now trying to make the light work correctly as I don’t have a DMX table for it. When selecting a random fitting in Freestyler some colour changing and strobe occurs but I cannot get proper control of the LED PAR 64.

Jam
Guest
Jam

I have now fixed the problem, I too had to remove pin 2,3 and tie to Vcc. Now works fantastic….thanks everyone.

hekontrollsJohn
Guest

I cant get this to control my light fixture, I have the Stage ape Phoenix Scanners only 4 Channels I have tried Freestyler, and I have tried a few others, I am trying Q light Controller now but I cant get it to talk to my light I have the scanner set up correctly in the fixture editor…

hekontrolls
Guest

Gah, This is killing me. I cant seem to figure it oiut.. I have tried it with my Galaxian Sky Laser as well. I cant get no control what so ever..

Dimitar Aleksandrov
Guest

Guys, could you please tell me if this device works with Strand Palette OLE? Thanks!

Jan Jaap
Guest
Jan Jaap

I really need tomthank you Steven!
This was one of the best/most usefull articles/instructions in the web i could find!
Evenso i could that freakin’ üroblem where u have to lift pin 2 and 3 of the rs485 chip.
But now everything works great and it’s sooo small and don’t even cost me 15€!
Thank u a lot!

ProMAX
Member
ProMAX

Hello Everyone!
I fixed board, but i have a little problem! First chanel mising. Each unit responds from 2 to 512 channel…no first channel!? I tried a second (brand name) interface and everything is OK.

If someone had a similar experience?
Best regards!!

Nathan
Guest
Nathan

Hi,

I have read all the information and comments with great intrest as I plan to make my own. I just have one question. I have found this product on the internet.

http://uk.farnell.com/ftdi/usb-rs485-we-1800-bt/cable-usb-rs485-serial-converter/dp/1740357?CMP=KNC-GUK-FUK-GEN-KWL-SEPO-FTDI&gclid=CN2zms3R0L4CFUn4wgodTxUABg

Would it be able to be used instead by just connecting a xlr to the 3 correct wires making a neat all in one solution?

Nathan

Nathan
Guest
Nathan

I have just found this website which also seams to suggest that it would be a viable option.

http://artemis.forumchitchat.com/post/archive-dmx-lighting-6450310

HellVlkr
Guest
HellVlkr

Has anyone been able to confirm if this controller will work with Artemis bridge simulator? I got the Enttec Open DMX controller, which works great. But I don’t want to spend another $70 for another controller…

loki
Guest
loki

I bought two of the boards from deal extreme sku 901221402. I hope these are the right ones and will work out of the box. am i correct in my selection?

Marco
Guest
Marco

Hi,
i got a converter with FTDI chip.. red light is on, and green “rx” light is flashing (so it should be sending signal)…drivers are installed properly, “USB Serial Port(Com 3)” under “Ports (COM & LPT)” and “USB Serial Converter” under “Controller USB (Universal Serial Bus)”; I also tried the dmx test from KMtronic and it said both successfully passed…anyway the light connected doesn’t work (i tried a led bar and a par 56, both not working) .. any suggestion? Thanks

Dj Camilo
Guest
Dj Camilo

Version 2013/06/4 board working if lifting the DE / RE pin from the board… thank you so much!!!!!!!!!

MaddMaxx
Guest
MaddMaxx

First off, Great Guides, this is perfect for people moving from consoles to PC software. I’m having a problem that I’m not seeing anyone else having. I got the RS485 Converter, I connected the XLR panel connector, using CAT5e cable, fired up QLC, connected my lights, and everything works. I have 2 Chauvet 4Bars, 2 Chauvet 4Plays, and 8 ADJ Mega Par Profiles connected; with a DMX terminator at the end of the chain. Everything works perfectly, until I open Google Chrome or any DAW software. When I open these programs, the 4Bars and the Mega Pars stop working; but… Read more »

Boxy
Guest
Boxy

Could be dodgy cable? Microphone cables are not (NOT!?) suitable for DMX. I’ve done tests with a signal generator and oscilloscope to try various cables and some are no good. The frequency is very high (MHz range for a clean square wave).

MaddMaxx
Guest
MaddMaxx

Thanks for chiming in. I am using DMX cable. I’ve tested their resistance but I don’t have the tools and know to test frequencies as you have. But the cables work just fine when the lights are being controlled by a DMX Console.

Wincal
Guest
Wincal
brandon
Guest
brandon

Would this work?

Tony
Guest
Tony

Hi Steven! I bought the board from Dealextreme. The board worked out of the box, but unfortunately it sends the DMX protocol in a peculiar way. Channel one for example has to be red on my “American DJ” lights, but instead they flicker through a wide range of colors as I change the value of the first channel. I tried the suggested fixes – the board stopped working at all. I noticed thou that the chip on my board is not DS75176B, but a ZT485EEN one. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Tony
Guest
Tony

Sorry to bother you again. After I tried again the second soldering modification the board started working properly! Thank you for this amazing DIY project!

Matze
Guest
Matze

Hello,
I´ll try it with USB to Serial with FTDi Chip. Freestyler sees the adaptor. Now my question, my adaptor has usb and other side a 9 pin connector. Am i right if i try with the pins 2 received Data, 3 Transmit data and pin 5 Signal Ground? or do i have to use other pins?

Matze
Guest
Matze

Thanks for the fast reply.
But i need to know which 3 pins from Sub D 9 to the XLR Plug.

Matze
Guest
Matze

I think i have to use pin 3, 5 and 7. So i got some signals out. But i can not change any values on my LED Flood 150 from Stairville. It lights up and sometimes it flickers. But no color changing or dimming. and no blackout. the fixture is tested

Matze
Guest
Matze

Now i figured out that i can change some Coulours. If i slide RGB and Master Dimmer. But totally crazy reactions. All Faders change all coulours. in some Positions i have all Coulours, sometimes blue and so on. I Think there must something be incorrect with the Signal i get out. I No Use the Pins 3, 5, 7. 5 is Gound. If i Turn 3 and 7 no Signal goes out. If I Use Pin 2 and 3 also no Signal goes out. So maybe i´ve to use other ports or need another piece that ports the 232 to… Read more »

Matze
Guest
Matze

Next step… I üu a max485cpa between rs232 and DMX. Now i have dimmer and RGB channels right. But my light always flickers on/off. What might be the broblem?

Matze
Guest
Matze
Liam
Guest
Liam

Could this be made with a DMX in?

MaddMaxx
Guest
MaddMaxx

Sorry I haven’t posted back, I’ve been on the road. To recap in a nutshell, the interface works fine until I open google chrome my DAW software. At which point, certain lights stop responding to the DMX signal. So I’ve tested my interface on an old XP laptop, and low and be hold, it worked perfectly. Unfortunately this doesn’t really solve my problem, because all my other software needs to be ran on windows 7; so I need to figure out why I get this behavior on my Win7 computer and not on my WinXP laptop… Any suggestions would be… Read more »

Yorick
Guest
Yorick

Great idea! I really was surprised by how cheap you can diy compared to their normal price… But I have a question which is really important for me to me answered: Is it possible to use this interface as a DMX input? I would like to merge my signal with another one…
Thanks in advance and sorry for my weak english!
Yorick

Matze
Guest
Matze

I think you should only have an rs485 Interface with in and out. normally every interface should have this. ists only the question if the interface has all pins wired.

deeveejay
Member
deeveejay

How do you get the DIY USB connected to QLC+. It will not output to the DMX fixtures. The USB DMX works with Freestyler and connects fine and it sees it in QLC+but it will not output to the DMX light. I have did all the pin moving and pin wiring. How do you get it to flash the light showing the signal is sending in QLC+.

Craig
Guest
Craig

Hey, I was wondering if you’ve ever seen a problem with the packets it sends out? What I’m seeing from freestyler is a very short ‘Break’ followed by an exceptionally long Mark-After-Break’, and no Start sequence at all. Seeing that with Freestyler and KMTronic DMX Device tester

peter
Guest
peter

Hey everyone.
I’m having a little problem, everything seems two work fine until I connect more than one lights, then the lights stop working or dim. Separately their work fine even my laser and fog. Dmx channels are set correct. Does anyone have a idea.

Thanks.

Jacob G
Guest
Jacob G

Are you Using a terminator? Are you using dmx or mic cables?

deeveejay
Member

When using QLC+ how to you get the green light to work as transmitting as it does on Freestyler. For some reason the yellow light flashes but not the green. I was wondering if it was a fix that someone has figured out.

Bruno
Guest
Bruno

Hi, I’m having a problem using a FTDI board (like this http://www.webtronico.com/image/cache/data/produtos/usb_ttl_3-500×500.jpg ), I’m sending data from freestyler, Vixen or any other and without to connect the board to my fixture (an arduino getting the signal) when after few seconds the TX led stop flashing (stop sending data). I tried to use on Windows 7 x86 and x64, Windows 8.1 x86 and x64, and XP x86. I don’t use RS485, just the DMX TTL signal on my arduino to dimmer some leds. I also tried to change to an older driver version, but it not solved. Anyone had this problem?

deeveejay
Member

I have a question. On QLC+ how to you control it remotely. I saw how you add the -w or web command line into the target file. It seems to go anywhere with me. Is there another way or how does this way work. Many of the lights I have are turned away from me and I can’t see what is going on. Any suggestions on this matter.

cwindeck
Guest

HI, A friend me today tested this out and it worked well with M-PC but the problem we discovered is that the UART an so the RS485 is missing the DMX Start byte which is an all zero byte in front of all Data bytes.
You can solve this problem by using only the DMX Channels 2-512 and keeping Ch1 on 0 allways but is there anyone who knows a better solution?

kureigu69
Guest

Do you have a ‘Break’ at the start of your packet? I have a similar issue where what I thought was my break didn’t seem long enough, and the ‘mark after break’ was too long. It turned out that I actually didn’t have a break at all, and what I thought was my break turned out to be my start frame. Still no idea how to resolve this.

cwindeck
Guest

Well i think we had a very long break which was still inside the dmx requirements and the followed some space and the data packets starting with the one of the first channel.
However in another measurement we discovered two breaks right after another. Which could be a problem because after the first break a dmx device could think here follows the first data packet with a whole lot of zeroes which pat extremely long and tv it could probably hang up broadside its missing the end of the packet. Or it could reset itself and just ignore the second break.

JOSE ANTONIO
Guest

HI and good day

Have three wall washer DMX connection with XLR-3pin, but this have DMX address write into device, the seller say me i need DMX coder?.
But if possible read DMX address? I think have RMD extensions.
Please Help.

BEST REGARDS and agree